The correction of poor posture is important. Many times, you hear parents telling young kids and teenagers to stop slouching or to sit up straight. The fact is that even though the spinal cord has a natural curvature to it, but humans have a natural tendency to bend forward or slouch. If you are already having some kind of back or spinal pain or feeling pressure on your back, you need to keep in mind that correcting the angle at which you are leaning, or sitting can help reduce any further damage to your spine. Here are some everyday tips for straightening your spine.
10 Everyday Tips for Straightening Your Spine
1. Understand The Importance Of Stretching
We all live crazy and hectic lives in which we often forget to take the time out for ourselves. We make excuses and put off stretching before our exercising sessions to shave off a couple of minutes here and there.(1,2,3,4) However, a thing like stretching should be the last thing we should be avoiding. It should actually be the first thing on all to-do lists. Having a basic stretching routine in the morning, even if for just 5 minutes, can make a huge difference in how your day goes and how your back and spine feel throughout the day and in the long run.(5,6)
Starting your morning with a stretching routine is the best way to wake up since you have been on your back the entire night. If you are on your back for the last 7 to 8 hours, your body needs some movement after this much time. You can start by doing a few simple shoulder rolls, some toe touches, and then some forward bends while standing. You can end your quick stretching routine by doing a full overhead stretch.
2. Pay Attention To Your Feet
Your feet carry the entire weight of your body and taking care of your health starts by taking care of your feet. If you are wearing ill-fitting or loose-fitting shoes, you can cause a lot of harm to your spine and lower back. And it’s not just about the shoes you wear outside of the house. What you wear on your feet inside the house also makes a huge difference.
Slippers and socks may feel cozy on a cold floor during the winters, but wearing more supportive shoes indoors, especially ones with non-slip rubber soles can prove to be better for your spine and lower back.
In fact, some studies have actually shown that investing in custom orthotics can be very beneficial for your health. You can either ask your doctor or see a podiatrist to discuss the best option for your feet, keeping your spine in mind.(7)
3. Let Go Of The Smartphone
We all know that we are hooked to our smartphones. From the time we get up in the morning till the time we go to sleep at night, we are continuously swiping on our smartphones. A recent study found that an average person taps, swipes, looks, or clicks more than 2617 times a day on their smartphone.(8) Furthermore, this downward motion we make can put nearly 60 pounds of extra weight on our cervical spine.
The very thought of disconnecting or putting down our phone may lead to a panic attack, especially when we are expecting messages or receiving calls from work or you are waiting for one of your kids to check back in with you. However, putting your phone in a timeout, even if it’s just for a few minutes, can really make a difference.
When deciding to put your phone in a timeout, you should start slow, but vow that you will not check it during that time. For example, you can decide not to use your phone for the time period that you are on the treadmill, or you don’t use it while you are commuting. Even such small steps can make a huge difference. Remember that every time that you do not pick up your phone, you give your spine another chance to reconnect and remain healthy.
4. Take Deep Breaths
It is a great idea to pay attention to your breathing. We rarely ever take the time to pay attention to how we breathe. There is a strong connection between how deep your breathing is and how straight your spine stands. When you are slouching or sitting, the diaphragm gets constricted. This exerts pressure on your chest as you exhale and inhale. However, when you are standing, you are breathing through the diaphragm, thus expanding and lengthening the spine and allowing your lower and upper back to expand.
Deep breathing is important not just for your spinal health but also for your overall health. Studies have shown that deep breathing can help reduce stress, feel more relaxed and rejuvenated, and it can also help you focus more on the positive things in life.(9) So try to practice some deep breathing techniques today. All you need to do is inhale, hold your breath, and then exhale.
5. Stop The Tendency To Sit
With most of us having to work in front of our computers for days on end, it is no secret that we spend the majority of our time sitting. From driving to and fro from work to sitting through meetings, sitting while having lunch, and then again sitting to unwind in front of the TV, we have developed a natural tendency to sit. While breaking this natural habit to sit can be a challenge, but putting a reminder on your phone to keep getting up regularly throughout the day will help you.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time can have a significant impact on the health of our spinal cord, but at the same time, the way in which we sit is also going to impact the spine. Here are some tips to remember for maintaining good posture while sitting.
- When sitting on a chair, keep your back pushed up against the chair. Your lower back should be pressing all the way back to the crease of the chair.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground/floor when sitting, and try not to cross your legs.
- Make sure that your weight is distributed evenly and you are not slouching or leaning to one side.
6. Make Exercise A Part Of Your Life
Exercise is absolutely essential when it comes to maintaining a healthy spinal cord and back. In case of any injury, exercise can also help in the rehabilitation and healing of an injured spine.(10)
You don’t need to an expert to plan what exercises are necessary for a healthy spine. Even a daily simple exercise routine that focuses on stretching and strengthening your hamstrings, abdominal muscles, and the back can help you in the long run. The many benefits of exercise for the spine include:(11)
- Exercise reduces inflammation and helps accelerate the healing process in case of any injury.
- It helps distribute the various nutrients in the body into the soft tissues and spinal discs.
- It keeps your ligaments, muscles, and joints healthy.
7. Sleeping Properly
Sleeping well is an important part of your well-being and overall health. Your body needs a good night’s rest to repair itself. However, there are certain tips you should follow while sleeping to ensure that your back and spine also get the rest they need.(12,13)
Try to sleep on your side instead of your stomach. Sleeping on the stomach can put too much pressure on the spinal cord. Sleeping on the side also reduces the risk of upper airway collapse, helps prevent any symptoms of sleep apnea, and also lets you have a better night’s sleep.(14)
You should also invest in a good quality, supportive mattress, and a pillow so that it helps promote proper alignment of the neck and the spinal cord. It is also important that you keep turning over your mattress regularly to ensure that it wears evenly.
8. Maintain A Healthy Weight
Many people don’t think about the effect of being overweight on their back. A healthy diet and regular exercise can not only help you lose weight but also maintain a healthy weight. Being obese or overweight, or gaining a lot of weight in a short span of time, are all risk factors for lower back pain. Having excess weight, especially if the weight is located on the belly, can put a lot of strain on your ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the lower back. It also puts an added pressure on the spine.(15)
9. Drink Lots Of Water
The importance of being hydrated cannot be stressed enough. Being hydrated is essential for the body as it helps maintain the elasticity of soft tissue and the fluidity of the joints. Furthermore, the intervertebral or spinal disks are susceptible to loss of hydration, and they may even start to lose height if they remain dehydrated for long. As the spinal disks begin to shrink, it leaves you more susceptible to painful disk conditions, and you may even develop a herniated disk.
Herniated disks are also known as ruptured or slipped disks, and they tend to occur when the lack of fluid causes the disks to become brittle, ultimately causing them to slip out of place.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, a herniated disk is one of the most common causes of sciatica, which is a condition characterized by back pain that radiates down only one of the legs.(16)
Another risk associated with being dehydrated is the development of bulging disks, which can also sometimes cause sciatica.(17)
Additionally, as your body goes without adequate hydration for a longer period of time, the protective padding of the spinal cord can also get affected, contributing to the loss of structural health of the spine.
10. Do Not Ignore Any Warning Signs
It is essential that you do not ignore any kind of spinal pain or problems, no matter how minor they are. While it is common to experience back pain once in a while, but persistent back pain can be an indication of a more serious problem. It is important that you listen to what your body is indicating. Do not overstrain yourself at the gym, do not self-medicate to get relief from your symptoms, and do not bend down improperly to pick up anything heavy. It is essential to seek medical care for your spine and to begin the proper treatment at the earliest to relieve your symptoms.
- Hyong, I.H. and Kang, J.H., 2013. The immediate effects of passive hamstring stretching exercises on the cervical spine range of motion and balance. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 25(1), pp.113-116.
- McCarthy, P.W., Olsen, J.P. and Smeby, I.H., 1997. Effects of contract-relax stretching procedures on active range of motion of the cervical spine in the transverse plane. Clinical biomechanics, 12(2), pp.136-138.
- Sands, W.A., McNeal, J.R., Penitente, G., Murray, S.R., Nassar, L., Jemni, M., Mizuguchi, S. and Stone, M.H., 2016. Stretching the spines of gymnasts: a review. Sports Medicine, 46(3), pp.315-327.
- Dvořák, J., Vajda, E.G., Grob, D. and Panjabi, M.M., 1995. Normal motion of the lumbar spine as related to age and gender. European Spine Journal, 4(1), pp.18-23.
- Khalil, T.M., Asfour, S.S., Martinez, L.M., Waly, S.M., Rosomoff, R.S. and Rosomoff, H.L., 1992. Stretching in the rehabilitation of low-back pain patients. Spine, 17(3), pp.311-317.
- Zakaria, A., Hafez, A.R., Buragadda, S. and Melam, G.R., 2012. Stretching versus mechanical traction of the spine in treatment of idiopathic scoliosis. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 24(11), pp.1127-1131.
- Riskowski, J., Dufour, A.B. and Hannan, M.T., 2011. Arthritis, foot pain & shoe wear: current musculoskeletal research on feet. Current opinion in rheumatology, 23(2), p.148.
- Winnick, M., 2021. Putting a Finger on Our Phone Obsession. [online] Blog.dscout.com. Available at: <https://blog.dscout.com/mobile-touches> [Accessed 16 April 2021].
- Publishing, H., 2021. Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: <http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response> [Accessed 16 April 2021].
- Warburton, D.E., Sproule, S., Krassioukov, A. and Eng, J.J., 2012. Cardiovascular health and exercise following spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury rehabilitation evidence. Version, 2, pp.7-1.
- Nash, M.S., 2005. Exercise as a health-promoting activity following spinal cord injury. Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy, 29(2), pp.87-103.
- Noll, M., Candotti, C.T., Da Rosa, B.N., Do Valle, M.B., Antoniolli, A., Vieira, A. and Loss, J.F., 2017. High prevalence of inadequate sitting and sleeping postures: a three-year prospective study of adolescents. Scientific reports, 7(1), pp.1-6.
- Washio, M., Kobashi, G., Okamoto, K., Sasaki, S., Yokoyama, T., Miyake, Y., Sakamoto, N., Ohta, K., Inaba, Y. and Tanaka, H., 2004. Sleeping habit and other life styles in the prime of life and risk for ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament of the spine (OPLL): a case-control study in Japan. Journal of epidemiology, 14(5), pp.168-173.
- Dhingra, H., Sleeping on Your Stomach–Pros, Cons and Tips 2021.
- Elsner, J.J. and Gefen, A., 2008. Is obesity a risk factor for deep tissue injury in patients with spinal cord injury?. Journal of biomechanics, 41(16), pp.3322-3331.
- Orthoinfo.aaos.org. 2021. Herniated Disk in the Lower Back – OrthoInfo – AAOS. [online] Available at: <https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/herniated-disk-in-the-lower-back> [Accessed 16 April 2021].
- Uptodate.com. 2021. UpToDate. [online] Available at: <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/low-back-pain-in-adults-beyond-the-basics> [Accessed 16 April 2021].